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27/02/2014 11:50
From the fields to the volleyball court: Halkbank middle-blocker Emre Batur
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Ankara, Turkey, February 27, 2014. Halkbank ANKARA middle-blocker Emre Batur has a very nice story to tell. The 26-year old Batur, the son of farmers from the city of Tokat, initially wanted to enrol for basketball but ended up playing volleyball following the advice of his uncle. Batur will be one of the players to watch out for as Halkbank hosts the Final Four Tournament of the 2014 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League – Men through March 22-23.  

Batur started playing volleyball quite late, by the time he was already 15, and after spending one and a half years with the team from his home town, he was scouted by Fenerbahce. Only three months after participating in their selection, he moved to Istanbul as a 17-year old young boy to develop his skills alongside the team in yellow and dark blue jerseys.

Batur literally sky-rocketed to Turkey’s volleyball elite; shortly after joining Fenerbahce, he was called up to join the national team where he is a regular feature and to these days he stands out as the country’s best middle blocker. After winning four titles in the national league with Fenerbahce, Emre moved to Ankara to play for Halkbank and hopes now to add to last year’s CEV Volleyball Cup also the trophy of Europe’s elite club competition, the CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League.

Halkbank’s roster includes a few players who have a connection with farming, such as Batur, but also Raphael Vieira de Oliveira, and the other Brazilian member of the group, Mauricio De Souza. Batur still goes back to his native village every single summer to work on the fields and the fruit gardens of his family: “If I weren’t a volleyball player, I would be a farmer right now” he says. “I started playing volleyball quite late and therefore had to train and work out for seven up to eight hours a day. I wanted to close the gap that was separating me from the other members of the team. When I first moved to Istanbul I knew I would have to work hard to compensate for this gap. I did not want to waste any single day so as not to have any regrets afterwards. Anyway, volleyball did not take away from my world and my roots. Once I stop playing, I am planning to stay in the sport as a coach or manager. And in order to share my experience I am planning to open a volleyball school” he continues.

His idols include Reid Priddy, Ivan Miljkovic, and Gökhan Öner. He has been inspired by their professional approach to the sport, the way they play and the personality they show on the court. Though he is still one of the youngest members of the team, he can look back and say: “So far I have been involved in winning 11 cups, so that’s not bad.”

Batur does not believe in the notion of “free time”. He invests every single second of his life by doing something. He is still single and with a bright smile says: “This is a declaration and appeal which is being made to the public.”

Batur is a strong guy, who rarely suffers injuries: “I think I have to thank my family for this. I have grown up in a good way, my mom was taking good care of me and always got good food. Everything we ate, such as eggs and chicken meat, came from my village. There are three good points that can make the difference in the career of an athlete: nutrition, training, and recovery. If you take all this into account, you can be a good athlete. Of course, you have to work hard, be patient until results will come and keep your desire for improving.”

Emre reveals also some other sides of his personality: “I am very ambitious. I hate losing. Volleyball is a game of mistakes; when I make a mistake, I try to reset my mind and forget about it immediately because one mistake can lead to the next one. Volleyball also needs a lot of practice and experience. The more you practice, the more successful you are.”

Questioned about the importance of talent and hard work, Batur says: “It is necessary to shape up your talent by working hard. I have a strong body because I grew up in that village. I went farming with my family, worked in the orchard and cropland and used to look after our livestock. When I started playing volleyball, I was not very talented. After I joined Fenerbahce, I even trained with their women’s team to improve on my technique. I spent all of my time in the sports hall. If you want to deserve something, you have to work hard; only as long as you are patient, you can achieve results and be successful.”

Emre regularly goes back to his home town and keeps good contact with family, friends and relatives alike: “I love nature as I search for quietness and calmness. We have exhausting trips throughout the volleyball season and the environment can be very stressful. When the season ends, I go back home, visit the village, drive the tractor, and plough the fields. The people down there are surprised when they see me working on the fields and they say that all farmers shall sponsor me because I work harder than they do. And even if you come from a small village, you can be a very decent person. You need to work on your self-esteem.”

After spending a few years in Istanbul, Batur moved to Ankara for the start of the 2012/2013 season: “Last year we won the CEV Volleyball Cup and also the Turkish Cup. This year we have set higher goals, as we are hosting the Final Four Tournament of the CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League where we evidently want to be successful. It is a great feeling to know that we are playing at home. We will start playing JASTRZEBSKI Wegiel in the semis; we have already crossed our ways in the prelims and I respect them a lot. They are true fighters. The semi-final will be a difficult game and if we make it through we will play one of the Russian teams, Belogorie or Zenit. Though the adrenaline is high, I think we shall keep calm and relaxed. We are concentrated on the Final Four right now and all our preparations are focused on this.”

Emre has very high goals for the reminder of the current season: “We want to win four competitions this year but of course the Champions League stands atop our list. After the Final Four weekend we will focus on the national cup. I wouldn’t be happy with a silver medal; the only thing that really counts and matters is to be the champion at the end of the weekend.”

Last summer Halkbank signed some of the world’s finest volleyball players and an excellent coach to pursue the highest goals also internationally, thereby accelerating the development of men’s volleyball in Turkey. “Halkbank and Turkey have to be analysed separately. Since a few years some great stars have come to Turkey to play volleyball. This year our club signed some star players and this way we are promoting also the quality of Turkey’s volleyball. The same consideration applies to our coach. Radostin Stoytchev is the kind of coach I have always wanted to work with. He coaches us very well and he knows each one of us very well too. He is very ambitious and this motivates us a lot. You can see this ambition by looking at his eyes and this way you get more motivated to fight.”

Batur is set to stay with Halkbank for another season: “When I moved from Fenerbahce to Halkbank, that was my first real transfer. At first I had some doubts: will I fit into this different environment? Will I be as successful as I have been with Fenerbahce? Halkbank supported me a lot in all these things. I am very happy here and would like to stay here also after the current contract comes to an end. Once I retire from the sport, I would like to help with the development of volleyball here in Turkey, as a coach or manager in the national team or with a club. I really want to share my experience and knowledge with the next generation.”

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